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Dustball dance begets violence, vandalism

By most accounts, last weekend’s Dustball tournament in Whitehorse was a grand slam.Roughly 1,000 softball players from Yukon, Alaska,…

By most accounts, last weekend’s Dustball tournament in Whitehorse was a grand slam.

Roughly 1,000 softball players from Yukon, Alaska, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories took part in the three-day tournament, which included a licensed event with a live band at Takhini Arena on Saturday night.

But not everyone had a good time.

Some simply got smashed — and not alcoholically.

At least three people suffered violent assaults committed at the wrap-up dance, according to Whitehorse RCMP.

Const. Jeff Monkman was in the arena parking lot when a group of partygoers informed him and his partner of a melee inside.

Monkman found a man near the stage at the front of the room, missing teeth and bleeding from the face.

The victim was a visiting tournament umpire from BC.

He and several witnesses identified two assailants, said Monkman.

“They were both arrested, taken back to cells and later released,” he said.

Kelly Auclair, 28, and 25-year-old Jeffery Paul Redick, both men from Surrey, BC, were subsequently charged with assault causing bodily harm.

The umpire went to Whitehorse General Hospital for stitches, according to RCMP.

Monkman and his partner continued to attend the arena parking lot until they were called inside a second time, in response to a second “brawl” just as the event was closing.

They found one man bleeding from the mouth and a second man lying on the floor, unconscious and bleeding from a head wound.

Event staff were performing first aid. Paramedics arrived and took both men to hospital.

No one has been arrested or charged with those assaults.

The attackers are likely the same Whitehorse locals often responsible for fights at the Capital Hotel or scuffles outside the Kopper King at closing time, said Sgt. Ross Millward.

“It seems to be the drug trade that is the problem,” Millward said Tuesday.

“People are flexing their muscles, for whatever reason.

“They show up at functions, these tough guys, and sucker-punch somebody.”

At least some of the suspicious group members, who are affiliated with the Yukon narcotics trade, played in the Dustball tournament, he said.

RCMP know the identities of common perpetrators of violence and drug trafficking in Whitehorse, added Millward.

“Everyone knows who these guys are.”

But without witnesses, charges cannot be laid, he explained.

“It’s a problem because people don’t want to get involved.

“They’re intimidated, and if we don’t have witnesses there’s nothing we can do.”

RCMP also received a phoned-in complaint Saturday night from two US citizens from Alaska claiming to have been assaulted at the Dustball dance.

“It seems to be the same group that was involved with all the violence that took place that night,” said Monkman.

“Otherwise, it was a successful event.”

There was some petty vandalism in the arena parking lot, including human defecations on automobile windshields and dented engine hoods where the perpetrators squatted.

And many out-of-towners camped illegally in Whitehorse greenbelts overnight.

RCMP received 108 calls between Friday and Sunday nights — an above-average number of complaints, more than five general duty constables can handle, said Millward.

Most of the complaints can’t be associated with Softball Yukon’s annual event, he said.

But there were 17 mischief charges, which Millward found “disturbing.”

“A lot of these could be associated with Dustball in one way or another,” he said.

Millward confirmed that other summertime international community events in the Yukon, such as the Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay or the Dawson City Music Festival, involve alcohol but don’t incite the same levels of crime and violence that the Dustball after-party has exhibited the past two years.

Despite the unusually violent antics, hundreds of people still had a good time at the tournament, said George Arcand, executive director of Softball Yukon.

“This dance has been a part of the Dustball tradition for a long time,” Arcand said Tuesday.

“Over the years there has been a fight or two, no question.

“That happens. But not to the severity of this particular incident.”

Any time you hold an event mixing large groups of people with alcohol, there are bound to be fights, he said.

“When (the Yukon) has the road relay or the bike relay, we don’t hear about things, but I’m sure that when there is a minor skirmish, it is handled by the people doing it, and all is good and the people get cooler heads and it’s OK.”

But Arcand acknowledged that everything was not OK with the Dustball dance, even though more than 50 people worked the event, some as security guards.

“This particular (skirmish) escalated very quickly and very violently.

“I can’t tell you why.”

Softball Yukon’s board of directors will meet to discuss how to respond to Saturday’s violence, he said.

“There’s likely to be some fallout.

“It goes from no more dance, ever, to how do we make sure this doesn’t happen ever again.

“The obvious, main option would be that there won’t be another (dance).

“We don’t need this. We’re not about a dance, we’re about a ball tournament.”

While some people would be “severely disappointed” if the Dustball dance was cancelled, many players are “adamantly opposed” to its continuation after Saturday’s violence, said Arcand.

The Yukon Liquor Corporation will also have a “huge say” in the fate of the dance, he added.

“They may have rules and regulations for us to bring in next year, or they have the right not to give us a licence.”

The Softball Yukon board is expecting information from the RCMP and has reserved its decision for the time being.

If the Dustball dance does continue next year, it would be wise to beef up security, said Millward.

In other Canadian jurisdictions, event organizers hire RCMP officers to work overtime to ensure security, and Whitehorse should consider a similar policy, he said.

Witnesses of violence at the Dustball event are urged to contact the RCMP at 667-5555.